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July 10, 2010

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hit and run

Like many others,I was questioning the circumstances around the spy swap. But no longer:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100710/ap_en_tv/us_leno_biden>Biden tells Leno US did fine in Russian spy swap

BURBANK, Calif. – Vice President Joe Biden had to convince a skeptical Jay Leno on Friday that the United States didn't get a raw deal from Russia in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.

Leno asked Biden during a taping of "The Tonight Show" why the U.S. was sending 10 accused spies back to Russia while getting only four in return.

"That doesn't seem fair," Leno said.

"We got back four really good ones," Biden reassured Leno. "And the ten, they've been here a long time, but they hadn't done much."

If it's good enough for Biden,it's good enough for......

narciso

This was the link I was referring to, they hold long grudges over there, don't they, in the LUN

narciso

Did we just gave up, the guy that gave us Hansen, we can't be that stupid, right

BR

Operation Blini

I wouldn't believe a word the NY Times says.
The real story is going to play out on the net.

narciso

I say that because of this, in the LUN

Charlie (Colorado)

You know, I kinda hate to agree with Biden, but in this case I suspect it's his no-filters brain repeating what someone told him.

Look, you've got ten people in this "spy ring", living it up on "Moscow Center" money. They've been blown for years but we haven't arrested them. Do you know what we call a spy who we know is a spy, but who doesn't know we know? We call that an asset. Hell, I'm a little amazed they weren't all working for well-placed think tanks and such; probably never got the field ops request though the CIA bureaucracy.

So now, we get some hints from the Russians that they might like to swap us some people -- something that is standard procedure. They probably are thinking Aldrich Ames. Instead, we pick up these ten, including one who is the kid of a bigwig in the FSB, er, Diplomatic Corps, just a few days before Medvedev is coming to make the official offer. Just long enough for Daddy in the FSB to have had a couple of nights thinking about his Anya being interrogated the way they interrogate, for years.

Net result? We get back four still-valuable assets who hung it out for us. They get back the Red-End Kids and a Cuban spy. And we don't have to trade back people who would still be assets to them to get them.

We did okay.

MayBee

Instead, we pick up these ten, including one who is the kid of a bigwig in the FSB, er, Diplomatic Corps, just a few days before Medvedev is coming to make the official offer. Just long enough for Daddy in the FSB to have had a couple of nights thinking about his Anya being interrogated the way they interrogate, for years.

Weren't they picked up after Medvedev was here?
If Russia was thinking Aldrick Ames, why would they settle for these 10?
Do you really think Daddy was worried about Obama's FBI, who had publicly announced her arrest, doing any kind of Russianeque interrogation?

MayBee

It's not that I think we did badly in the trade. But considering the US was already negotiating before these guys were arrested, and the immediate news coverage was about what buffoons they were, I'm not confident we didn't get the pre-determined storyline about them.

narciso

Ok, I might have read it wrong, Zaporozky was likely the source for the Hanson leak which was a payback for burning among other Vasilenko almost two decades before. Zhomov at the time of Bearden and Risen's publication (2003) was still furious at that instance. But what was the urgency of this spy swap now, then again you have some experience on the technical side of these
things Charlie,

anduril

I haven't followed this case all that closely, but I seem to recall that the FBI is said to have been monitoring The Ten for the past 10 years. We know that that monitoring included very extensive and sophisticated electronic means, as well as the usual traditional investigative means. It's possible that the US believes that there is little of value left to learn from plea negotiated interviews. That, of course, isn't an argument for a swap--absent other factors. However, the presence of other factors--to which we aren't privy--might lend weight to the above considerations. My advice is to listen for squealing from the Intelligence Community. If squeals are heard, that may mean there's dissent from this decision.

Frau Schimpfwort

Thoughts of a total naive-nik: Why would the Russians even want Ames? What useful information would he have for them. On the other hand,Ms. Chapman,either redhead or brunette, has a promising future of in Mother Russia.

Clarice

"I'm not confident we didn't get the pre-determined storyline about them'

I agree MayBee. I am very suspicious. Almost from the moment they were arrested, the press was singing from the same nothing to see hear hymnal.

Frau Schimpfwort

*a promising future of _________(fill in the blank) in Mother Russia.*

MayBee

Did we even see pictures of any of them but Chapman?

Jane says obamasucks

Even some guy at CNN is saying it was a mistake because like everything else it makes Obama look like the wimp he is.

hit and run

MayBee:

Did we even see pictures of any of them but Chapman?

...

the immediate news coverage was about what buffoons boobs they were.

MayBee

ha! Too true.

hit and run

Interesting comment left on my youtube video from April:

johndrew25
12 hours ago
I knew the young Barack Obama when he was a sophomore at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He was definitely a Marxist socialist in the fall of 1980 and the spring of 1981.

Hmmmmm...

Boatbuilder

Assuming whatever story about the 10 Russian and the 4 American "spies" you want to believe is true, and that Biden has in advertently bumbled into the truth--why the publicity? This is a SPY SWAP--in which both countries are more or less publicly exposing espionage operations--why do both countries seem so damn publicly pleased about it?

Very fishy stuff.

Jane says obamasucks

It takes an incredible suspension of belief to think Obama was once a radical marxist - probably up to when he left the radical marxist church of reverend Wright in 2008, and now he's not a radical marxist, and any equating his radical marxist policies is simply racist.

MayBee

So why did Cyprus let the big ringleader go? Why isn't his photo all over the news, so people who see him might report him?

Clarice

His pic was in the papers, Jane. Esp. in the UK. He walked across the border into Turkey and returned to the Motherland. The reposts indicated we had not been clear to the Cypriot Court the seriousness of the charges against him or bail would have been denied.

I guess the fix was in all the way around.

Clarice

**The repoRts indicated....*

MayBee

Thanks, clarice. As I think you agree, it makes no sense that we would have been negotiating for this exchange for months and not tell the Cypriots the importance of keeping him. Letting him go had to have been part of the deal, no?
Not that we weren't just going to let him go back to Russia anyway.

Clarice

Either it was part of the deal and the failure to communicate was deliberate or the Cypriot judge was paid off or it was the FBI in Peace and war goofing up.

My suspicion is No. 1,

MayBee

Yeah. Certainly it was easier to let him go from Cyprus than to have to extradite him and then let him go. That would have been nothing but a delay.

Clarice

In fact, if we were negotiating for his release at the time, requesting extradition from Cyprus might in retrospect looked disrespectful and suggest deception on our part. No?

MayBee

Indeed.

Clarice

The Russian press seems to be on JournoList, too.
http://www.aolnews.com/world/article/how-the-spy-swap-plays-in-russia-darkly/19549054>When they all agree, it's a lie

Extraneus

Apparently the Russian people are less inclined to believe the press and political propaganda than most Americans. Maybe they'll figure it.

Charlie (Colorado)

Obviously, if I knew all the details I wouldn't be able to talk about any of the details. But let's work through it.

According to press reports, Obama knew about the Russians well before the Medvedyev meeting. Also according to press reports the ten had been blown big time, and under pretty much total surveillance, from just about day one -- ten years. This means they're not only been getting their communications intercepted, they're been getting fed information from the start to track their other contacts. The CIA guys love that cloak-and-dagger tradecraft stuff; as much as I make fun of them for being idiots, largely justified in my experience, they do know how to run an agent.

So, as I say, these people were an asset to our side, to be used for our ends. We can feed information back, or we can use them some other way. The fact that one of them, at least, is a major FSB player's kid just adds value.

Now, one side or the other initiates a request for a swap; probably our side, but it could be either side, as it's good business to preserve some hope (or dread) that someone who is captured will be returned.

According to TASS, the US named the people they wanted. I had the order wrong, so no one in Russia knows what we have in mind; Medvedyev agrees -- or rather the staff folks on each side agree -- that they want to set up a swap. The Russians know that we want a swap, they're waiting for us to volunteer someone. We offer them the Cuban spy, but that's obviously not enough, and we're still haggling, when...

... we take in the 10 low-level, thoroughly blown, Russians. Now, count it up: we've got ten people who have high-level connections, and this woman who was spying for Cuba. Insert the part about Daddy worrying about Anya now, after Medvedyev's visit.

We also have a pending swap already being negotiated.

We let it be widely known that we have the Red-End Kids, including lots of pictures of luscious Anya. (There have been pictures of the others, but they're pretty average looking.) The swap isn't public yet, it doesn't have to happen, but if it doesn't Anya et al go to jail.

(Side note: if you're a Russian, are you going to think the stories of our side being constrained in interrogation techniques are true, or are you going to think we're more like them? Plus, it's not like our prisons are a walk in the park. Daddy wants the red-headed Red home.)

It seems consistent with everything we know. We know the value of the people we asked for -- Russia knows, too. It's still good business to trade, if only for the morale of people still under cover. (That's why these swaps are usually public, too.)

They started into the trade knowing the value of everyone they thought we could offer. Then he pulled a hole card they didn't expect.

As I say, it just hurts me to have to agree with Biden, but in this one case, I think he's right: we pwned the Russians on this one.

Charlie (Colorado)

As I think you agree, it makes no sense that we would have been negotiating for this exchange for months and not tell the Cypriots the importance of keeping him.

MayBee, assume, as in my model, that we knew these ten were blown but the Russians didn't. If we make a big fuss about the value of this one guy on Cyprus, what information would that reveal to the Russians?

Jane says obamasucks

Charlie,

I don't think this president is smart or informed enough to "want a swap" - unless it was an SEIU leader or someone like that.

Clarice

Chaco, that is certainly a plausible alternative. Still my source calls the swap vile and I think he says that for a reason.

I dn't think these folks were here to perform the usual spy craft carp--getting classified info, for example. For that there's MOM at the CIA and Risen to name a few better sources. They were to influence public opinion and find rising stars in the agency, media and policy networks. I am suspicious that the WH didn't want some of those folks named publicly.

Now, my view is total supposition also, but in the absence of more, I think it is as valid as your hypothesis.

H&TML

Runs Around, Blues Traveler

Jim Miller

Charlie(Colorado) -- I came to an entirely different view of the swap, and was pleased to see, today, that a CIA veteran agrees with me.

Before I go into my main argument, it is worth clearing away some of the underbrush in the case.

First, no one here knows just how successful this group was -- or might have been if they had kept operating. We can be absolutely certain that neither the FBI nor the SVR will tell us everything they were doing, much less what we knew about what they were doing.

It is quite common for spies to work for years before they do something that makes them worth their pay. Example: Kim Philby, who was recruited while he was at Oxford in the early 1930s, didn't do much for the Soviets until 1940 when Burgess got him into the SIS (MI6).

Nor should we assume that they were here only to steal secrets. Much of the work of the KGB has always been to spread propaganda, and to influence those in power. The journalist in the group, Vicky Pelaez, was already doing what she was supposed to do, most likely.

And her husband, the professor, was in an excellent position to talent spot.

You should take a look at Marc Ambinder's post on the subject. Ambinder is sure the swap was a good deal, because it's a sign of a "healthy relationship" between the two countries. (I have no idea what Ambinder would say about the fact that Russia (with a smaller population) now has as many spies in the West as the Soviet Union had at the peak of the Cold War.)

In other words, Obama did the swap, not because it was a good bargain, but in order not to disrupt the good relations between the two countries.

(I value Ambinder's posts, since I see him as an unofficial spokesman for the Obama administration. He often tells us what the top Obama people would say to us, off the record.)

When two sides are negotiating, the side that is more eager to close the deal is likely to get worse of the deal. We were far too eager to do this swap.

And there is the point that Coyne makes today (and I did yesterday) that we should have kept them in custody for a while in order to question them. With that many, and with their kids in our hands, I think at least a few of them would have told us something useful.

There's another point worth mentioning: Keeping them away from their SVR superiors for a while means that those superiors don't have an opportunity to question, and, quite probably, figure out how we caught this bunch. (Assuming they don't know already, and they probably don't or they would have pulled them back long ago.) We might be able to catch some more with the same kind of traps, as long as the SVR doesn't know how we caught this bunch.

L

Plame knows. She was blown and had to tell everyone that. These ones couldn't talk.

MayBee

MayBee, assume, as in my model, that we knew these ten were blown but the Russians didn't. If we make a big fuss about the value of this one guy on Cyprus, what information would that reveal to the Russians?

I don't understand what you're saying. Interpol put out an arrest for him after we'd arrested the other 10. We'd already been negotiating with the Russians for the swap. We picked up 9, he was located in Cyprus and arrested, and then let go and he disappeared.

Maybe there is something I don't understand, but I don't think Medvedev is stupid enough to go along with a swap he'd negotiated thinking he's going to get a big gun and settle for 10 newly arrested people.

He could just refuse to finish the swap.
He could just let these people go to trial on the few charges against them.

I think both sides got what they wanted. I think the people who didn't get what they wanted were the Russian spies, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying their lives here.

MayBee

And also, what Jim Miller said.

First of all, I'm sure there are enough Russians in jail here in the US talking to their Russian lawyers that the Russians have a pretty good idea what goes on in our prison.

Daddy already let his daughter be a sex toy for Russia. I don't think a few years in prison, under the watchful eye of the Russian Consulate, is enough to scare Daddy into forcing Medvedev and Putin to do something.

MayBee

I also find the timing of this very coincidental:

Sergei Tretyakov, Spy Who Fled to U.S., Dies at 53
By WILLIAM GRIMES
Published: July 9, 2010


Sergei Tretyakov, a high-ranking Russian spy who defected to the United States after the end of the cold war, died on June 13 at his home in Florida. He was 53. His wife, Helen, announced his death on Friday on the Washington radio station WTOP.


Pete Earley, the author of a book about Mr. Tretyakov, “Comrade J.: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War” (2008), wrote on his Web site, www.peteearley.com, that Ms. Tretyakov gave the cause of death as coronary arrest, and that she had asked her husband’s friends not to reveal the fact of his death until an autopsy could be performed under the supervision of the F.B.I.

And above, I should say we arrested the 10 in the US over the weekend. Interpol issued a warrant for the other, and he was arrested in Cyprus on Tuesday and then released. So everybody already knew the other 10 were blown. They were in custody.

MayBee

OK, I know I'm spamming- but let me ask one more thing.

If you were a failed Russian spy who, as Charlie proposes, forced the Kremlin into a spy swap they did not want to make-- would you want to move to Russia?

BR

Very wise, Jim. And it ain't over.

Our leftists here are living in the last century before telephones and net, if they think the eleven have been neutralized just by sending them to Russia.

Sing, blackbirds, sing.

narciso

Klehr and Haynes provide a little context with these sort of exchanges, in the LUN

Rosett a probe

No, no point. Like Plame; do some damage where you think you can help, have some handled and move up.

Ames is a fascination for deep covers and we have the same issues we had before, but Plame now hangs with Hilly and the kid from Russia got turned in by his teacher.

narciso

And this site in particular, shows one particular example mentioned, and links to other events

MayBee

died on June 13 at his home in Florida. He was 53.

I know I'm being really conspiratorial, but remember we were already negotiating a spy swap.
If you had been spying on/for Russia, and you heard about his sudden death just days before the swap took place....would you be comfortable?

BR

You rock, Salt :)

narciso

With the death of Politskayava, Litvinenko, any number of other figures who stood in the siloviki's way, you really can't be conspiratorial enough

Piratorial

The Russians experts focus a lot on language ability and this is an error. For example, some arrested were expert linguists, but their teachers were hired by the NSA as linguists. So, why send an expert linguist to an expert linguist, unless there is interest linguistically.

Any deep cover will tell you language is irrelevant. Ling un nam

mysinchew.com/node/41589

anduril

Here's a nice photo from the WSJ of Polish anti-terrorism police escorting the Mossad operative who's a suspect in the Dubai assassination:

The story can be found here: Poland Will Extradite Suspect in Hamas Assassination. The extradition, of course, is to Germany:

A Polish court approved the extradition of an Israeli citizen wanted in Germany, where prosecutors allege he was connected to the plot to assassinate a senior member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Dubai in January.

Uri Brodsky was detained by Polish authorities at the Warsaw airport last month, after Germany issued a European warrant for his arrest on charges of passport fraud...

What's interesting is this--while I'd have to do some checking to be sure, I believe Dubai has an Interpol arrest warrant out for Brodsky. So, will Germany turn Brodsky over to Dubai?

anduril

If you were a failed Russian spy who, as Charlie proposes, forced the Kremlin into a spy swap they did not want to make-- would you want to move to Russia?

In such circumstances who would ask what your preferences were and who would care?

narciso

Rst assured, our attorney general is on the case, sarc, in the LUN

narciso

So they lived 10 years or so, under false names, passports, complete legends, in contact with leading political military and other figures,certainly a violation of FARA,

anduril

certainly a violation of FARA

Arguably--I'd have to go over the indictment carefully to get a better idea. You should read § 611. Here's the most relevant part (but there's a lot more):

(c) Expect [Except] as provided in subsection (d) of this section, the term "agent of a foreign principal" means--

(1) any person who acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant, or any person who acts in any other capacity at the order, request, or under the direction or control, of a foreign principal or of a person any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign principal, and who directly or through any other person--

(i) engages within the United States in political activities for or in the interests of such foreign principal;

Whether or not any of the ten had engaged to this point in political activities as defined by FARA--

(o) The term "political activities" means any activity that the person engaging in believes will, or that the person intends to, in any way influence any agency or official of the Government of the United States or any section of the public within the United States with reference to formulating, adopting, or changing the domestic or foreign policies of the United States or with reference to the political or public interests, policies, or relations of a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party;

--I would expect that their controllers would have been very happy to see them ultimately engaged in such activities. DOJ has in recent years--which is to say, the years prior to the Obama administration--shown an increased willingness to use FARA, which is a key component of national security law. Let's face it--what hostile foreign power would NOT want to influence US politics, given half a chance?

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